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MPI Hosts Third Meeting of Article VI Forum in Ottawa
MPI Event Report
Ottawa, Canada
September 28-29, 2006

OTTAWA - Representatives from twenty-five states met in the Canadian capital on September 28-29 for a Middle Powers Initiative sponsored consultation on Responding to the Challenges to the NPT. This was the third meeting of the MPI's Article VI Forum, an initiative designed to create an informal setting where diplomats, experts and NGOs can discuss ways to strengthen the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime through the NPT.

The Ottawa consultation centered on the premise that the next review conference in 2010 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the central instrument that is supposed to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, not repeat the failure of the 2005 review.

Foreign Minister Peter MacKay delivered a welcoming address, saying "Canada is committed to a coherent, comprehensive and packaged approach toward the NPT that does not neglect any of the 'three pillars' on which the Treaty is based: non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy." He added, "Canada recognizes and supports the valuable role that civil society can play in the NPT Review Process. Our support for this meeting here in Ottawa today is a tangible sign of that belief." The consultation was held in the Foreign Ministry building with the support of the Government of Canada.

The U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuaki Tanaka, delivered the keynote address. "Multilateralism," he said, "is what is required to consolidate these gains in a coherent global framework that is stable, permanent, and just. It is here that the middle powers have enormously important contributions to make. They enter this process from the moral high ground of those states that chose not to seek weapons of mass destruction - they are practicing what they preach."

In addition to 23 "middle power" governments, two of the nuclear states, the U.K. and China, sent diplomats to participate in the technical discussions on the first day. The U.S., Russia and France were invited, but did not attend. Some 60 representatives from NGOs attended, as well as officials from the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the support organization for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and members of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, a panel gathering together some of the world's leading nuclear scientists in order to promote the control of the stocks of weapons-grade nuclear materials.

A central focus for the consultation was five technical issues, identified at earlier consultations, which are key to any progress in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation: the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); the Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT); de-alerting and reduction of US/Russian nuclear dangers; negative security assurances; and verification. Diplomatic and academic experts gave their views on each of these five issues, both the technical dimensions of the issue and the political potential of moving these issues forward in the disarmament and non-proliferation fields.

The CTBT - a treaty that exists but has not yet entered into force - and the FMCT - a proposed treaty for which negotiations have not yet begun - were seen as the two avenues for effective work on disarmament in the short term. The CTBT was signed in 1996 but is not yet in force because ten of the 44 countries needed for entry into force have not ratified the treaty. The ten include the United States and China. This treaty is considered key to disarmament and non-proliferation efforts since by halting testing nuclear weapons states cannot reliably develop new weapons and states aspiring to nuclear status cannot test to ensure their weapons will work. Depending on its scope, an FMCT would halt the production of new fissile materials, require the inventory of all stock and the elimination of excess materials not needed for functioning nuclear weapons.

Verification is a cross-discipline issue dealing with the various ways to ensure that arms control agreements - bilateral and multilateral - are adhered to. The irony is that as the science of verification (satellite inspections; detection systems for air, soil and water; tamper-proof seals) improves, the political commitment to verification is weakening. This is particularly true of the United States which has over the last six years rejected any verification mechanisms for either existing or planned treaties, saying that verification is too unreliable. This position is rejected by the scientific community and the vast majority of states.

Negative security assurances - guarantees by nuclear powers not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states - are a long-standing demand of non-nuclear weapons states parties to the NPT. Their argument is simply that since they have renounced the use of nuclear weapons, the five nuclear states parties to the NPT should give them unequivocal legally-binding guarantees that they would not be targets of nuclear weapons.

Unlike the other four issues, which require multilateral cooperation, de-alerting is essentially a bilateral issue between the United States and Russia. The strategic postures of the two largest nuclear states still - 15 years after the end of the Cold War - have approximately 3,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert aimed at each other. The goal of middle powers is to encourage the two remove these weapons from alert to avoid accidents.

In conclusion, Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C., the Chairman of MPI, said MPI "takes it as a hallmark that we are in business to help the NPT. We are committed to the NPT." He added MPI was ready to help the middle powers in ensuring a positive outcome for the NPT review process, which starts in 2007 and culminates in the 2010 Review Conference.

This was the third meeting of the Article VI Forum. The first meeting was held at the United Nations in New York in October 2005; the second in The Hague in March 2006. There are tentative plans to hold a fourth meeting prior to the first session of the preparatory process for the NPT Review, scheduled for the spring of 2007.


Links:

Briefing Paper

Sleepwalking Towards a Nuclear Catastrophe, by MPI Chairman Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C.

Given Iran Incentives to Stop Enrichment: Dr. Hans Blix